Seeing Six Moves Ahead

“You are thinking six moves ahead!”

In “The Queen of Katwe” a young Ugandan girl discovers her passion for chess and a natural ability to become really good at it.

Her coach realizes she could even become a chess master the day she demonstrates her ability to visualize exactly what moves her opponent will make and what her response to each move should be.

The youth in this true story was very lucky to have found her true calling and natural talents at such an early age. Eventually her skill enabled her to fulfill a lifelong dream and buy a nice house for her mom.

How many thousands of children in similar impoverished living conditions around the world have some talent that could save their family or community and bring important new solutions to a world in dire need of great new leaders?

And how many of them are already able to “think six moves ahead” and solve critical problems–but have never been given a chance to apply their talents where they might do the most good?

The new Avvene educational project is dedicated to helping children everywhere identify their natural skills and abilities so they can quickly become the kind of teachers, experts and project developers we all need.

For more information and to see some of the future leaders we’re already working with, please visit our project’s landing page:

Isn’t it time for you to think six moves ahead–and visualize a world in which every young person has a real opportunity to make every skill and interest count?

We’re all in this together;

So let’s act like we know it and do something about it.




It’s Okay to Hate … Writing

Some great writers have hated to write.

In his book “The Great Shark Hunt” (Simon & Schuster), Hunter S. Thompson wrote:

“I’ve always considered writing to be the most hateful kind of work. Nothing is fun when you have to do it — over and over, again and again — or else you’ll be evicted, and that gets old.”

If that infamous “Fear and Loathing” curmudgeon hated to write because of how routine it can seem, you can too.

Just don’t hate it enough to never start doing it–or give up soon after. Then you’re depriving yourself of some of the very real personal and professional benefits it can bring you.

There are plenty of reasons you need a good editor–even if you hate to write and aren’t sure you even want to do it. Like anything else you do, it can be fun or tiresome; and if your editor doesn’t make it seem fun and challenging,  you should find a new editor.

Think about how much time you spend each day using a computer or smartphone, and what percentage of that time you are writing already. Think about how much you’ll enjoy unlearning the drivel from your school’s English class–thumbing your nose at a dreary teacher.

Think of it as a game of chess in which you know you’ll win because you can think more moves ahead than the reader. Or even think of it as a shopping spree in which you’re able to constantly look at your past experiences before putting them back into the shopping bag and embarking on another spree.

Go ahead: keep hating to write, while you finish your first book and gain amazing insights into your own character and your characters’ characters. Travel and play and reminisce and experience the textures of countless cherished moments.

It’s what happens when you’re writing–and there’s so much more to it!


Some people just know how to keep their cookie jar filled.

Namely, the folks with strong vision and connections.

Lacking these, all our potential is about as filling as flour blowin’ in the wind: it’s not doing anything or nourishing us because there’s nothing holding everything together.

A strong vision is like milk or shortening that binds all your potential together so it can accomplish something useful and creative.

Then strong connections and a reliable network are like the team of bakers who’ll process your mass of dough into the proper consistency and shape before putting the raw cookies into the oven.

So stop being carried here and there by every breeze. Develop a vision you can believe in and a network that will be there when you need it. Get baking today!

So when’s dessert?



Confidence – and How We Help Build it

In a recent Fast Company article, Leadership Consultant and author Angie Morgan noted the importance of dealing with dozens of everyday challenges that tend to shake our confidence. This matters! Feeling confident always increases our ability to achieve our goals.

“When you lack confidence you put a lid on your potential,” Morgan pointed out. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. And we don’t intend anyone we work with to have to deal with such a lack.

So what does this have to do with Avvene our new international project designed to help any child anywhere prepare for success and leadership? It’s simple: increasing everyone’s self-confidence has been a key program goal since day one.

The program is designed to give every participant–including adult mentors and helpers–a steady stream of increased confidence; and then help them nurture it in others.

Four confidence-building steps are mentioned in the Fast Company article; and all are built in to every Avvene interaction and activity. They include:

  1. Practice Positive Self-Talk:

Every adult currently involved in developing the program’s pilot project in Ladysmith, South Africa is actively building a steady diet of self-affirmation and comments that praise the children participants.

Associate Professor Sonia Kang is lead researcher of a study cited by Morgan. She is quoted:  “Any time you have low expectations for your performance, you tend to sink down and meet those low expectations.”

Negative self-talk and low prsonal expectations will never have a place in Avvene.

  1. Bask in Your Successes

From the very first day, children will be invited to share and celebrate their personal strengths and skills by recounting what they’ve always done well and hope to improve on in the future.

The initial questionnaire used to gather information as the primary source for the “reader’s” personalized book focuses on successful behaviors and positive perspectives.

  1. Surround Yourself With Supportive People

Success never comes from simply repeating “happy talk” or inspirational cliches. Our supportive mentors or helpers will always be on the lookout for young “readers” to immediately begin achieving incremental or noteworthy success while growing new confidence that will last a lifetime.

  1.  Manage Confidence-Killing Thoughts

Everything our readers and their helpers do will carry them into unexplored psychological territory that’s outside their comfort zones and familiar environments. Their long-term success depends on a resourceful ability to embark on a personal growth adventure with good humor, mutual support and courage.

“Courage isn’t action in absence of fear,” says Morgan. “It’s action in spite of fear. ”

Our program’s unique culture reflects its founders’ lifelong eagerness to function and find ways to succeed even in unfamiliar circumstances. Each participant will discover a new world of supporters able to help him or her face and overcome their fear of the unknown and even– when necessary–faltering self-confidence.

  1. Use Body Language

In a program as completely decentralized and multi-cultural as ours in which key developers and coordinators have spent years living and working with people from countless countries and backgrounds the respectful productive use of body language (including possibly “power poses or at least good posture) in every interaction will be a key collaborative component.
So how about it? You should seriously consider becoming involved in Avvene’s programs and activities–it will be a real confidence booster!

Cutting Across Parking Lots

When walking around Dupont Circle with my supervisor–a former FBI agent–I would sometimes try to shorten the walking distance by cutting across a parking lot or patch of grass. But Lester would have none of that.

“Tsk tsk” he admonished me. “I didn’t know you were that kind of person.”

He clearly wasn’t. After decades in a huge bureaucracy even the thought of cutting corners was unacceptable to the point of being dangerous.

Part of the fun I got from learning the neighborhood was discovering where I might save a few steps–not out of laziness but from a desire to find a tiny way to deal with something that stood between me and my ultimate goal.

Even today I cross a room at night without turning on a light so I can test my memory and resourcefulness.

One of the most memorable sections in Alexander’s wonderful book A Pattern Language was his bit of advice for home builders to wait and put in the pathway linking the sidewalk and front door until after visitors had shown you how they preferred to get from one to the other.

This quirk may even be a personal characteristic of people who are most comfortable using and getting creative with internet apps. if I were a developer I might need to follow established rules and stick to the sidewalk I suppose; but not as a mere user.

Discovering how to get most directly to where I want to go is always my higher priority.

How about you? Do you walk around parking lots and driveways instead of through them or across them?

Think I’ll ask the next kid I interview too.




Internet-age communication = Constant improvement

How would people feel if they stopped getting your Facebook posts, or seeing your ads, or getting an email from you?

If people don’t contact you, that doesn’t mean they no longer care. It just means they’ve stopped finding enough value in what you’ve been communicating to expand on your relationship.

Nobody will miss getting your messages if you don’t make them rich with relevance, proof and value. Compete with yourself constantly; distinguish yourself by adding new value and vitality to every message or conversation.

Make raising the bar your trademark and you’ll achieve your goals more quickly.


Keeping your language light and entertaining … celebrating the visual value of everything around your characters … being clear concise and compelling … staying in the reader’s head rather than your own …

These are some of the most important skills for a writer to cultivate. If everything you write isn’t constantly improving in these categories you’re easing into a rut–and away from any dedicated readers.

The most effective way to constantly improve your skills? Report.

Become your readers’ extra eyes and notice everything going on in your characters’ lives and intentions. Like a good reporter you should leave all the verbal underbrush and fluff to writers who don’t know this technique.

You already know you’re supposed to show and tell and avoid injecting yourself into the narrative (Hunter S. Thompson’s “Gonzo journalism” was a terrific style but only for Hunter S. Thompson). So do it! Report!

Notice and pass along what sings to you; slash and burn anything that doesn’t. Write like a reporter because reporters will only keep their jobs if they keep getting better and honing their reporting skills. That’s a good example for you to follow.


Six questions that will greatly improve your writing

Legendary marketing guru Drayton Bird asks these questions when editing his own or anyone else’s writing:

1. Are these sentences in the right order?

2. Does each one advance the argument?

3. Do I need that – or is it just there because I think it’s clever?

4. Is there anything – words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs – I can get rid of?

5. Is there anything I can add that will help?

6. Am I going for the jugular with enough force?

Copy these questions and ask them the next time you write anything (be merciless with your answers).

Then when you’re thinking of using an editor, send the questions to him or her along with a sample of your writing and ask them to answer them. Or better yet ask a few editors and hire the one with the best answers.


News Flash About Ponds

Everyone would like to be a big fish in a little pond so they can dominate it.

Accomplishing that used to be simple: just work and study hard, network, improve your skills, and move up a corporate ladder.

But the hot winds of internet communication–especially anything business or consumer related–have changed all that.

You may have spent years preparing yourself to become a big shot, only to see a new industry fall into the hands of a brash imaginative nobody–and leave you gasping.

Face it: business and social ponds will come or go in the time it takes you to find GPS directions.

Every day we read news of big fish left flapping helplessly in the mud because their personal pond up and moved or dried up on them.

Getting big and meaty is no longer the secret of success. Work on your jumping skills and develop a nose for new ponds instead.

Make magic not “meh”

A few times I’d walk up to the registration desk of a conference and introduce myself as a journalist.

“I’m thinking of writing an article about the conference and one or two of the topics on your agenda.”

Free pass–sometimes even with a complimentary lunch.

This wasn’t dishonest: I’m always looking for story or interview ideas. And they were happy to let me in. They knew that a journalist would add value to their conference and mission. A real win-win.

There’s plenty of magic in words if we always choose them thoughtfully and connect them carefully.

And you can be a magician if you’re committed to practicing and polishing your magic act.

Pull a happy surprise out of a situation or scenario. Spread sparkly images with elan like you’re spreading a deck of cards. Jump into a tank and show off your lasting power.

Sloppy or derivative writing will always be greeted with a speedy goodbye.

So make everything you write magic and get a return engagement.

And tell someone at your next conference that Carey sent you.